Once upon a time, there was a Roman general, in charge of a garrison on the outskirts of the Empire. It was the middle of the fourth century, and he could feel the earth shifting under his feet, so he called his lieutenants together and said, “Things are changing. The hordes are approaching, and the people are afraid. They’re losing trust in our ability to protect them, so we’ve got to sharpen our methods, and sharpen our spears. I’ve investing in some new weapons, and I’m going to try some new ways to communicate battle plans across the legion. I’ve also been reading about the latest in warfare techniques, which I’ll be implementing little.
“But rest assured,” he continued, “There will always be a Roman Empire. And there will always be Roman legions, generals, and lieutenants, for we provide an invaluable service.”
Once upon a time, there was a lord who lived in a castle on the top of a hill, in 13th century Europe. Realizing that the serfs were getting restless, he summoned all of his knights and landholders to the castle, and he told them, “The times are changing. In some parts of our world, people are writing documents of law and demanding to have elected representation. So we’ve got to adjust with the times. I want you to mix with the vassals, listen to what they have to say, and put up a suggestion box in the square. Equip them with some new rakes and hoes.
“But worry not,” he concluded, “As long as there are hills, there will be lords upon those hills. There will always be fiefdoms. There will always be lords and knights and serfs. That will never change.”
Once upon a time, in the plains of early 19th century North America, there was a U.S. Army general who oversaw a fort on the frontier. His scouts were telling him that the Natives were getting restless, so he gathered his officers together for a meeting. “Gentlemen, the Indians are gathering to attack, and the settlers are unsettled. We need to change up our methods, to work with the Indians and cooperate with the settlers. I’ve been reading about new leadership techniques, and I want you to implement a new workflow that takes our new realities into account.
“But don’t fret,” he said with confidence, “There will always be a frontier, there will always be Savages, and there will always be Army forts. We may change how we do business, but we will always be here, for they could never manage this massive continent without us.”
Moral of the stories: Nothing lasts forever.
Epilogue: This is my contribution to the conversation on the future of denominations being curated by Faith & Leadership.